- The replacement of illicit plantations with cocoa has changed the history of a country marked by drug trafficking.
- Gender equity, deforestation, and child exploitation are among the other issues being addressed by Colombia’s cocoa industry.
Colombia’s history has been hard hit first by drug trafficking and then by the guerrillas, both of which have the coca plantations in common. With the arrival of the “Cacao for Peace” movement, a social revolution took place throughout the country and began the replacement of illicit plantations with cocoa.
The peace agreement signed a few years ago between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) further opened the way for the transformation of the country.
With cocoa taking center stage and the “Mountain Chocolat” project—organized by the authorities, academia, and private initiative—as an operational tool, Colombia now has the opportunity to support rural areas and assist farmers in developing local economies.
On the one hand, it is necessary to support existing legal crops and substitute illegal farming, in both cases primarily by supporting the cocoa producer. The best way for other countries to assist is to be a part of the commercialization of the product that emerges from this new process.
Colombia is the 10th largest cocoa producer in the world. Currently, more than 170,000 hectares are planted with cocoa throughout the country, of which about 25,000 were previously used for illicit crops.
The main destinations that consume Colombian cocoa in some form or another are Malaysia, Belgium, Russia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Ecuador, all contributing in some way to this social revolution of cocoa in Colombia.
Gender equity, deforestation, and child labor are part of the agenda.
In terms of gender equity and the inclusion of women in the cocoa industry, it is not only about women working, but also being well paid, occupying various positions in the process, and having their opinions and contributions considered equally.
Twenty-five percent of the workers in the “Mountain Chocolat” project are women. Two good examples of women leaders operating in this project are Diana Ballesteros, CEO of Chocolate Gironés, and Katherine Alfaro, an international business professional.
The Cocoa, Forests, and Peace initiative seeks the restoration and protection of forests, the protection of farmers’ sustainable production and livelihoods, and social participation in the cocoa sector. The cocoa industry is aligned with this initiative to combat this global phenomenon.
One of the traits of cocoa families is that children are a part of the production. There is no child labor, but children tend to be particularly involved in the process of unrolling the cocoa, more as part of family time and sharing traditions, rather than as a form of labor.